Alaska. The last frontier. A place I've dreamt of visiting and exploring. I got that opportunity when a friend asked me to visit. My friend is quite the avid outdoors man, that's what brought us together. He is also firefighter and hunting guide for local outfitters. I was super stoked about heading out there and exploring. I brought my travel art kit and prepared for the cold as best I could. I arrived in Anchorage and being a great host had some fun stuff planned out for us. We went looking for goshawk nests in the snow and had some friendly run ins with moose. Headed out to see some incredible glaciers and visited small towns one which host dog sledding races. It was all a great time. I snuck in sketching wherever I got the chance. Everyplace in Alaska seems to have taxidermy, skulls, old trekking equipment so the subjects are there.
One of the times we headed to his cabin, which was quite a ways out and the weather was cold! Upon arrival it was obvious we were going to have quite the walk to the front door. The snow was deep deep. He led the way with his snowshoes and I followed as we both made the best possible trail from his 4x4 to the front door using our snowshoes. The cabin was -25 inside and the first order of things was to get things warm. We brought in firewood and got the stove going. After all equipment was in we left to a nearby town and got dinner. We hiked around the banks of the frozen river and took in the scenery. We tried to follow ptarmigan and snowshoe hare tracks but no luck. Nighttime was coming quick and the temp was dropping fast. Back at the cabin the stove had done a nice job of making it warm. We chatted for a while. I got my sketchbook out and drew under the light of the kerosene lamps. Being in Alaska my subjects were its native wildlife naturally. I had wolves, moose and muskox on the brain. We called it a night and went to sleep.
About 3 in the morning all the water I drank was ready to join its cousin, the snow, outside. I climbed down the ladder and stepped outside. This is going to sound insane but it was one of the most incredible and worrisome restroom break I've ever had and possibly will ever have. It was freezing! Not sure what the temperature was, but it was COLD. It was one of those times where things take a looOong time, (I drank too much water and Gatorade). Being outside in the middle of nowhere, in Alaska, at night, is dangerous. You feel vulnerable in this vastness. The snow makes the atmosphere at least bright, so my eyes were always in patrol mode. I know the moon makes things bright but this was a different. I've been out in the dark when there is snow, but this lighting was not the norm. I couldn't quite understand. Then I looked up! I did not expect it in a million years! The northern lights! Wow. Just beautiful, almost made me drop my guard and keep an eye out. Then all,of a sudden in live surround sound wolf howls! They were far off but I quickly got back in locked the door and jumped in bed. The experience was surreal and incredible. What a restroom break huh?
"Oh about "walking backwards with snowshoes"...
Well I'll keep it quick. Next day I was headed outside to explore around the cabin. Snowshoes went on and I grabbed the poles I was using for balance.
"You should put on your gloves Manny." Nah, don't need them. I started out and made my way to a pretty good bank of snow, I better back up I thought. Wrong move. Inexperience. One just doesn't step backwards with snowshoes. When you fall in about five feet of snow, bum first, there is no floor. You can't just stand up, feels like you're just punching holes in the snow looking for the floor. Well undoing snowshoes should have been easy, they were right in front of my face, I was folded like a taco I realized. No gloves equals frozen hands.. I learned a couple of things that day. Wear gloves in below freezing temps it makes removing the snaps on snowshoes easier and listen to good advice. I walked into the cabin snow covered. My friend sitting on the sofa, drinking his coffee looks at me and busts out laughing. :) I love Alaska! More stories soon!